NEWARK, N.J. — No. 23 Seton Hall was fantastic in the second half to pull out a telling win against No. 25 Creighton to tip-off their Big East season.
In addition to quotes used in my game story, there was plenty to talk about in the aftermath of a heart-threatening game that had just about everything from injury scares, to scrums on the court, trash talking, and celebrations in front of a tremendous crowd.
Angel Delgado was as colorful as ever post-game, while Khadeen Carrington was relaxed and business-like and Kevin Willard embedded a slight jab at his star forward.
Quotes from all three plus five stats from an exciting game.
Creighton turned it over nine times in the second half. One of the best teams in the nation at protecting the rock, Greg McDermott’s team turned the ball over just three times at the half while shooting 54-percent from the floor. A series of turnovers late in the second half really helped the Hall string stops together and clamp down late-on; they also benefited from a 17-5 run to cut a 13-point lead to 62-63 before Creighton answered with an 8-1 counter-attack of their own.
Speaking of those turnovers, the Hall won the points off mistakes battle 22-9. Desi Rodriguez had as many steals (5) as everyone else in the game combined and several of those were at key points in the second half. Just like how Creighton scored a lot of easy buckets over the first 20 minutes, Seton Hall made sure to take a similar approach after the half.
This was the second-fastest game Seton Hall has played, by a slim margin. But it was certainly the most intense, all things considered. The Wagner game contained more possessions, but with the result never in doubt, this one takes the prize. Creighton’s inclination to get into their offense as quickly as possible was very obvious and aligned with their top-10 shortest average possession stat coming into the game; the Bluejays were as advertised in every department, including a shaky second half performance that some of their fans may tell you has become a pattern this year.
Angel Delgado led the team in assists (5), only Khyri Thomas (6) had more in the game. Without a true point guard on the roster capable of handling major minutes, Seton Hall can use all the help it can get in the ball movement department and Delgado has helped immensely whether it be via inside-out touches or spraying over-head outlet passes to get his team going on the fast break. While he only had one assist (the cheeky floater onto the block for Desi Rodriguez’ go-ahead basket) to go along with a timely 17 points tonight, Myles Powell has also helped in this category all season long.
Seton Hall’s bench played just 30 minutes combined. Creighton forward Ronnie Harrell Jr. played 28 off the bench by himself. While I’ve written about the ‘1B’ team being a key for this team, maybe the core six or seven guys will be relied upon by Kevin Willard more and more as the year goes on — something to watch, for sure.
On what held the team together after Angel Delgado fouled out: “His words in the huddle. First thing he said was ‘Maybe now we can stop the pick-and-roll’ [Willard added this as dry humor] and the second thing he said was ‘We aren’t losing this game. Do what you have to do to win this game.’ I thought he showed great leadership for not being in the game.”
Willard on defending Marcus Foster, specifically in the second half: “I thought we switched everything that they were doing and I thought were were switching aggressively in the second half that got him going away from the basket. In the first half, we were stuck in mud and we were letting them get too tight to the three-point line on early entry passes. They are too good offensively to let them get in a rhythm and we let them get in a rhythm.”
Willard on Ish Sanogo’s return to the team: “I thought Ish responded great. We made a family decision on the 26th. The seniors called a meeting with me, they had a meeting with the team. They had another meeting with me, then we had a meeting with Ish and his family, and the seniors were very adamant that he started with us, and he’s a big reason why we are where we are, he’s a great young man that has made a couple bad mistakes. They wanted him the rest of the way. It was a pretty much, I call it a family decision, but the seniors showed unbelievable leadership in the fact that it was their decision.”
Angel Delgado on Mike Nzei’s game: “Mike got me! That was the first thing he said: “I got you, I got 14 rebounds!” That’s the first thing he said. I was like ‘Yo, I freakin’ love you man. You don’t know how much I love you right now.’ Mike is fun to play with, he’s a hard-worker, he works every single possession. He got me, and I know that was good for him [too].”
Delgado on what type of animal his team is, after he called the Big East a pit bull: “My team, we’re a dinosaur. Destroy them in one bite!”
Khadeen Carrington on meeting with Ish Sanogo: “It was a meeting between myself, Desi, and Angel at first, then we brought it to Coach. We felt like we started with Ish, so that it was a big thing to finish with him. We had a convo with Ish, we told him all the extra stuff needs to stop. He’s really focused right now, and of course we’re going to need him down the stretch.”
Bonus quote from Greg McDermott on Seton Hall’s seniors: “I’m ready for those guys to graduate. I might come to their graduation and congratulate them … They’re just really talented, they got down and we even jumped on them to start the second half and they didn’t panic, they continued to play the way they played.”